MANDALAY — Students involved in a four-day demonstration to demand the government increase education spending vowed to resume their protests after they were briefly detained and escorted back to their homes by security officials on Thursday morning.
Seventy-two protesters, including 13 female students, were temporarily held by local authorities. After questioning by officials at the Mandala Thiri Stadium, they were all sent home.
“There were about 100 plainclothes police who pushed us into their vehicles after they had confronted some of our parents,” said Min Htet Myat, one of the students.
“The chief minister was there and he told us to go back home. The authorities took personal information from each of us, then they divided us into groups and escorted us back home,” he said.
While the students were held inside the stadium, their worried parents were forced to wait outside with journalists covering the news.
The students were then escorted to their homes a few hours later, but their parents were not told. The worried parents expressed anger over the way the authorities had managed the situation.
“The police officer called me and accompanied me to the stadium to see my son. But he left me here and I was not allowed to meet him. When I saw my son was in the car, I called him back to take me home too, but he ignored me and just told me that he would send a car, which I can’t accept,” said Daw Swe, the mother of one of the protesters, Ko Yar Zar Htun.
“This government was elected by us. But I don’t like the way they treat us like this and the way they have handled the protests,” she added.
The students said they were sent to the administration offices in their respective towns and were asked to sign an assurance that they would not participate in further protests.
“Most of us did not sign it, but some of were forced to sign. Even though there were no brutal acts committed during detainment, escorting us back home and forcing us to sign such a pledge is an act of oppression,” said Kyaw Thura Ye Kyaw, president of the Yadanabon University Student Union.
“We cannot accept being treated like this. We will be back and resume our protest in another different way,” he said.
The student protest was criticized widely in social media on the grounds that protesting against an elected government was inappropriate and that the push for a hike in the education budget should be handled through Parliament.
“Many said our country is poor and has many problems so we should not act like this. But do we have to wait for the country to become rich? For how many years? Who made the country poor? Why can’t we ask now for the increment which will take time?” said Ye Myo Swe, another student protestor.
Local journalists waited several hours at the regional police office and regional government office to talk to a responsible official but no one was made available to the media.